Thursday, August 21, 2008

Acts of Self-Confrontation: Opening August 23

The latest exhibit for the Central Arts Gallery is Acts of Self-Confrontation. This eclectic show will open on Saturday, August 23. The reception is 6-10 p.m. Tucson blues master, Tom Wallbank, will perform an acoustic set from 6:30 - 7 p.m. My latest shrine Letting Go will be included in the show. Stop by for some art, music, wine, cheese, and conversation.

Denver: Ready for the Democrats

On a recent trip to Denver, all I can say is that I really blew it. I made my reservations without checking the calendar closely. I went to Denver the week before the Democratic Convention. I missed all of the action, the Democratic Party dignitaries, and Obama's great stadium speech! Oh, well. I did enjoy my trip to Denver and a visit with my four cousins who live in the area.

I had a wonderful hike in the red rocks area (above). I also enjoyed hiking around downtown Denver. On the Thursday before the convention started, the city was all dressed up for the big show. The gardens around the state capitol building were breathtaking (bottom). I enjoyed the public art-- especially the giant blue bear looking into the convention center window. I wonder what he thought of the speeches?

What really impressed me about downtown Denver was the transportation system. I was staying with my cousin who lives south of town in the suburbs. She suggested we talk the light rail train into downtown. We parked at a free lot not far from her house and took a 15-20 minute train trip into the heart of downtown. The ticket was $3.50 round trip, and the price included transfers to buses and other trains downtown. The park and ride lots in the suburbs were free, but the lots downtown were $8-10 per day. Great pricing structure to encourage ridership. The trains were clean and fast.

The light rail took us right past the convention center and dropped us off at the 16th Street Mall (below). When my cousin first talked about this, I thought it was just a mall, but no, it was a long strip of shops and businesses on an open air pedistrian mall. Only pedistrians, the light rail line, and bicycles are allowed on this strip. Very nice, well-planned, well-excuted. All I can say is: Tucson, what are we waiting for?

On the way back to the burbs at rush hour, it was standing room only. Denver has 6 or so lines now. A light rail line from Colorado Spring to Denver and a line to the new Denver airport are being planned. A line to the airport is a great idea since it is way the heck out of town. For more pictures of Colorado, check out my Flickr site.

Golden, Colorado: The Town the Coors Built

The first time I visited Golden, Colorado, it was 1973. Golden was a sleepy suburb of Denver, and I was a new college graduate on my way to San Francisco to make the scene. That was a time when Coors was a local brew-- not available in Ohio. I remember sipping Coors in a small pub and enjoying the crisp mountain air on a sunny September day.

I've been to Golden a few times since then, but on a recent trip to Colorado, I was surprised to see how much Golden had grown and developed. Golden still has a small town feel, but it is a decidedly upscale small town feel. The downtown (above) has been spiffed up with a new park along the river (bottom), several downtown condo buildings, an historic park with re-enactments (below, right), restored historic homes (below, left), lots of public art, street musicians, a few small museums, and many bustling shops and restaurants. In the top photo, you can see the river-front condos on the right and the Coors plant in the distance. Detractors would say that Golden has been gentrified. OK, yes, it's been gentrified, but as a downtowner, it was heartening to me to visit a city with a vibrant downtown full of people enjoying the interesting things to do. In honor of that day back in 1973, I sat at a sidewalk cafe with my cousin, sipped an ice cold beer, and enjoyed the clean mountain air and the views.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Modern Ghost Towns

Rising gas prices and falling housing values are causing major shifts in American lifestyles. Some people are driving smaller cars and parking the SUV in the driveway, while others have purchased scooters, motocycles, bicycles, or bus passes. A signifant number of Americans have chosen not to act; in particular, many are putting off home purchases.

An interesting article on the MSNBC website discusses the woes of builders who planned to build far-flung developments (like the one pictured above). Overbuilding in a soft market has created modern day ghost towns. The development pictured above was slated to include 179 homes, but only 15 have been built. Homowners quoted in the article lament the lack of sidewalks and "safe" places for the kids to play. Oh, my gosh, their chilren are forced to play in fields and vacant lots! They also are worried because other houses are not packed in tightly around them. What's wrong with fields and elbow room? People who live in the country seem to like it.

When I was growing up, my parents' house was the first one to be built on our street. There are many family photos of our little Cape Cod surrounded by dirt and weeds. For a few years, ours was the northern most house in our small town. I can remember playing in the fields next door and picking wild strawberries-- a little bit of the country on the ourskirts of town. I also can remember being said when the last vacant lot on the block was replaced with a house and a lawn. Ok, there may have been poison ivy and bugs in those fields, but for us kids, it was FUN.

Marry Me! I Have Health Insurance!

Marrying someone to obtain health insurance is yet another example of how screwed up our health care system is. In Health Benefits Inspire to Marry, or Divorce, the NY Times offers vignettes of people who are making matrimonial decisions based on the availability of health care benefits.

I really don't know what to say about this except that the foreigners who read the NY Times must be either laughing at our collective stupidity or shaking their heads in disbelief.

On NPR this morning, the commentator said that the health care insurance fixes that both McCain and Obama are proposing are not significantly different from the proposals that were suggested back in 1992 when the Clintons tried to push universal coverage forward. Hmmmmmm.....

Maybe availability of health insurance coverage should be added as an personal attribute on the online dating sites:
Hair: auburn
Eyes: brown
Height: 5'3"
Build: average
Health Insurance: yes

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Everything We Didn't Do

As everyone knows, energy costs have been climbing steadily for several years. Gone are the days when I could fill my Toyota for $12. The last time I filled it, the tab was over $40.

As gasoline prices topped $4 per gallon, behaviors started to change. More bicycles, more scooters, and fewer SUVs and trucks are seen on the streets today than a year ago. As a result of actual behavior change on the part of Americans, prices have fluttered down a bit. After all, oil producers don't want to kill the goose who laid the golden egg by starving it; they want the goose to be fat-- if not happy.

In a previous post I lamented the switch in behaviors and policies after the energy crisis of the late 1970s. In last week's NY Times, Thomas Freidman posted an article entitled Flush with Energy. I didn't read this article when it came out, but this morning I realized it had been the most e-mailed article for several days in a row. Hmmm... if that many readers are interested enough to forward, I should read this.

Wow... Freidman's article chronicles changes in every-use behaviors in Denmark-- more bicycles, more wind energy, taxes to discourage oil dependence, and incentives to encourage develop of new green technologies. The Danes did everything we didn't do. With these changes, Denmark has gone from 99% dependence on foreign oil in 1973 to 0% today.

Pan across the ocean to the US, where we started to change our behaviors in the 1970s, and then went back to our old ways (and beyond) after Ronald Reagan's don't-worry-be-happy administration. Several Democratic presidential candidates have talked about behavior change and incentives for green energy. No one has mentioned the T word (taxes) or the S word (sacrifice), though. It will be interesting to see how this story unfolds in the future-- especially this winter.